Donald Trump was never going to go gently into that good night. “Rage, rage against the dying of my presidential grift and exploitation of American democracy” was always going to be his exit strategy, however begrudging the exit might be.
Oh, sure, he’s launched legal challenges in a handful of states. But those challenges are dead on arrival, more legal theatre than proper jurisprudence. The grand pronouncements of his lawyer Rudy Giuliani given from a lectern located between a crematorium and a dildo store offers a new twist on the classic cliche “between a rock and a hard place.” I’ll let you decide which is which.
The pathetic end of Trump’s presidency suggests he was resoundingly thumped at the ballot box. If only it were so. In 2020, Donald Trump received the second-most votes ever in a US presidential election, beating the marks set by Obama in 2008 and 2012. If the Democrats’ goal in 2020 was to demonstrate that 2016 was an aberration and that the American people would thoroughly repudiate Trumpism, they failed.
Back in August, I wrote that if Trump was soundly beaten in November, the Republican Party might try to clean house and move in a new direction. After record GOP turnout, any thought of turning from Trumpism has been abandoned. Damn the torpedoes — full speed ahead.
Indeed, it’s hard to find where Republican ideology ends and Trumpism begins. The two have become perilously intertwined in the past five years. Trump has declared grievance the watchword of the day. Every institution exists to be distrusted. Every tax represents a cruel tyranny on hard-working Americans. Every immigrant or minority group is an “other” that is instinctively opposed to freedom and liberty.
The next four years will offer more of the same from America’s conservative party. If anything, being in opposition will merely increase the shrillness of their complaints. They will obstruct Biden at every turn, saying that his plans are too radical, even un-American. They will call him a socialist for spending even one cent of the taxpayer’s money. They will say he is inciting radical antifa terrorism that destroys the lives of hardworking Americans. They will attack, attack, attack.
But what are their counteroffers? What is there plan to solve the coronavirus crisis? What is their plan to make healthcare more affordable? What is their plan to finally, after years of inaction and half-measures, extend the full blessings of liberty and equality to Black Ameircans?
They don’t need plans — not if the other side is illegitimate. That’s why Republicans have been so willing to condone Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. They’re undermining Biden’s legitimacy before he even takes office. Fraudulent presidents cannot be reasoned with or compromised with; they can only be opposed at every turn.
Their success in 2020 has taught the Republicans that Trumpism can work, despite Trump’s loss. The formula is simple: 1) claim to be aggrieved; 2) attack Democrats/media/government/”other” for perpetuating that grievance; 3) repeat ad nauseam to widen the partisan divide and incite your own supporters.
But what of the man who perfected that formula? What of Donald J. Trump?
Trump’s claims of election fraud will undermine trust in Biden and trust in government writ large, but they will not extend his lease over the White House. He will be back in Mar-a-Lago by January 21st. He has hinted that he might run again in 2024, but this beggars belief — multiple reports suggest that Trump didn’t even want the presidency to begin with, and he has repeatedly demonstrated his distaste for fulfilling the actual duties of the job. Trump’s days as a presidential candidate are over.
His days in the spotlight, however, are not. Trump is an addict fueled by the adoration of his fervent supporters. He is already planning rallies to try his case of voter fraud before the only judge and jury that matters to him: the MAGA crowds and the sycophantic faithful. He will continue to spew whatever nonsense comes to his mind on any conservative radio or TV station that will book him — and if they stop booking him, by God, he’ll make his own.
Trump’s continued presence on the political scene will eventually become a problem for a GOP looking for its new leader. They will be trying to win over voters who are still in love with their ex-boyfriend, all while that same ex-boyfriend keeps sending them plaintive “U up” texts. It’s a recipe for bitter jealousy.
Maybe someday the dream of a new Republican Party led by the Never-Trumpers will be realized. But until then, they are the biggest losers from this election. They bet big on a full-scale repudiation of Trump; instead, the party they once called home is doubling-down on the leader they so despise. The Republicans detest them; the Democrats distrust them. They are political ronin, dishonorable operatives with no master and no loyalties.
They wanted to reform the Republican Party. The American people didn’t; by supporting Donald Trump with such fervor, they sent a signal to GOP leadership. Obstructionism works. Democratic norms don’t matter. Party means more than country.
Expect more of the same.